English 9159B

Ways of Reading in Early Modern England: Places, Practices and Processes

Instructor: Professor Scott Schofield
Winter Half Course.

What might we learn from a more focused study of readers and their books in early modern England?  How might contemporary reading practices such as commonplacing, interleaving and annotating influence the way we analyze and conceptualize even the most familiar of literary genres?  How might early modern conceptions of physical space and the body shape our understanding of how books were experienced?  What might a closer study of the early page, both in manuscript and print, teach us about how literature is organized and navigated?  Finally, how have recent digital initiatives attempted to illustrate and reconstruct the places, practices and processes of early modern reading? 

These are just some of the questions we will consider in a course that surveys a range of literary and non-literary works produced between 1580-1650.  Literary authors to be studied include:  Donne, Elizabeth I, Jonson, Shakespeare, Spenser, Wroth and others.  In order to better understand early modern media, students will work with a number of digital archives as well as the rare books and manuscripts at Western Library’s Special Collections.